20-minute tracks need to keep moving in order to justify their length, and this new release from mars f. wellink (VANCE ORCHESTRA) takes this lesson to heart, unfolding in three distinct parts that grow more intriguing as they unfold. The title may refer to the composer himself, whose output is described by the taâlem label as “not very productive”; or it may refer to the intelligence hiding behind nature and juxtaposition, a force not easily captured or named.
The first part of the piece is somewhat sprawling, most notable for its percussive chime notes, unintelligible spoken sample and skittish drones. While this section achieves a certain stasis, one longs for development to occur. The repetition of the dialogue – an answering machine, perhaps – exposes the listener’s desire for variety. The more one listens, the more one realizes that the changes are incremental; a telegraph gurgle appears behind the chimes, growing in intensity before disappearing.
At 6:50, a much clearer voice emerges, backed by the ticking of a temperamental clock. Scrapings and rustlings, uncowed by the human presence, continue at full volume, and again the drones shake the grit from their slumbers. The piece begins to sound like a commentary on intelligibility, as the organic sounds make more sense than the human noise. Eventually the sonic field fills with grime and tone, becoming the meat of the piece. Processed water recordings join the miserable array. Human beings become more and more unwelcome, but continue to intrude.
At 17:59 the features shift again; a brook, a muted train whistle, a looped children’s choir. This coda comes across as more sinister than calming, as humanity is incorporated more for its compositional properties than for the presence of its warmth. The resulting mood can be described as calculating cold – a controlled, mathematical arrangement that breaks living matter into elements so that they may be examined with an objective ear. If this unseen intelligence is real, we have reason to be alarmed, so please repeat after me: it’s only a recording. (Richard Allen)